Cloud providers pose an immediate danger to the end-users, and the organizations that rely on their uninterrupted use. People and businesses organize themselves in many unique ways, but many features are common to their goals. Access to services like email, file-sharing, and maintaining backups are as critical as transportation, housing, and food.

Providers like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft can, and have, cut people off from the data and services that they rely on to run their lives, businesses, and communities. This circumstance often leaves people with no recourse for recovery.

Withholding access to files and data that people own can have disastrous consequences. Many people use cloud providers to store a digital archive of their entire lives. The things people save is broad. This archive can range from family photos, tax records, banking information, and crucial communications.

Users are at their most vulnerable when cloud providers disrupt user's access to their accounts. When crucial information is unavailable to people that need it, it becomes difficult to work on the tasks they need to finish. A blocked individual is not able to communicate with the other people they need to reach. This is how autonomy breaks down, and underscores the risk to individual autonomy cloud providers pose.

There are a range of reasons providers can cut off access to your data. The reasons vary between legal obligations that providers have to obey under warrant.[1] But their reasoning can be a lot more arbitrary. Shutting down an account for breaking Terms of Service agreements due to a mistake made by the user,[2] or the user's name failing to meet the cloud provider's "real-name standards"[3] are some examples that have happened in the past. Google’s zealous pursuit of profile fraud has locked some people out when they have simply experienced problems with their payment methods.[4] With selective means of recovery and no oversight, chances of recovery are slim.

When cloud providers suspend users, they become the judge, jury, and executioner on whether the user will ever be able to access that data again. There is no government oversight or bill of rights that give users any protections here. Cloud providers also claim some level of ownership of the data when you upload it to their servers, violating user’s personal privacy. This affords them the position that an individual never owned their data, to begin with.

To mitigate the looming risk, people must own copies of their data, and they must be able to access it without the need for a cloud provider. However you calculate the risk factor that cloud providers introduce into your life or business, what remains clear: data ownership ensures resilient autonomy.

[1] Your account is disabled

[2] Tips On How Not To Get Your AdSense Account Banned

[3] Facebook real-name policy controversy

[4] Why I Can No Longer Recommend Google Fi

Subscribe to Matthew on to get updates on privacy, technology, and the cannabis industry.